My First Middle Grade Fiction Novel: Somewhere In-Between

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I cannot believe I’m almost finished with my novel. I started writing it in March of this year, so if I meet my Halloween deadline to completely finish editing it, this project will have only taken me a grand total of eight months from concept to publication! I finished writing it, and now have to go through the editing process. Many people groan about the editing process, but my least favorite part is getting the first draft out. Every day is a struggle to force myself to get words written. Thank goodness freelance work was light over the summer and it enabled me to focus more on my writing. I even used BOTH Camp Nanowrimo months (April & July) to get most of the book written (I don’t think I would have gotten it done otherwise).

I have a personal goal to put a book out every year, and when I began this year I had no idea this year’s book would be a full-fledged novel. I joined 12×12 to motivate me toward a picture book goal… but my picture books have been put on the back burner since this novel has risen to the surface. — Oh, man. And I actually plan this to be a series, so who knows – I might end up putting picture books on the back burner for a little while longer (unless I get the urge to juggle, which is possible).

This is just one of those projects I HAD to get out of my system. I felt like it was something I needed to get out NOW. I can’t explain it. There was a real sense of urgency while going through the writing process. It was a story that’s been brewing inside me for probably a decade, and for the past few years has been bubbling more and more to the surface. Finally in March the concept became crystal clear for the first time and I started scribbling down all the thoughts in my head, forming the final book idea.

Writing this book really felt like opening a shaken pop can. Ka-boom! Finally I was able to spill out ideas that have been brewing in my head for almost a decade. I was thrilled to finally have a good concept that would allow me to express these thoughts and ideas without really saying it’s what I believe – it’s just a collection of ideas I have. That’s the joy of writing fiction – it’s a wonderful form of creative expression.

What I find very interesting is that I started writing this book when I began therapy this year. This book has become my creative outlet – a way to face my own feelings of life and death, good, evil, and one’s purpose. I lost my dad over a year ago, two days before my birthday. There was no funeral and no memorial service – all per his wishes. I’ve had a very hard time not knowing how to form any sense of closure, and I think writing this book became my own way of doing that for myself. It’s no mistake that I used my dad’s name in the book (“Bob”), and I’m dedicating it to him as well, as even more of a way to form that sense of closure. But even as the title suggests, I don’t know if I ever will truly feel “closure” – I think with grief you are always in that state of “in-between.” That person who died will always be a part of you, and I like to believe the person you miss is never truly gone at all. I like to believe it’s merely another state of existence that we human beings, trapped in our bodies, are unable to comprehend until we join our fellow spirits and experience it for ourselves. Even then, I like to think we continue to explore for answers.

Perhaps our soul’s existence is a never ending journey. I like to imagine that even in death there is conflict and choice. Otherwise I think it would be very boring.

Still in the process of deciding whether this book will be traditionally published or indie published. I’ll probably decide after I go to the SCBWI Northern Ohio Regional Conference this September.

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Feature Artist for Oberlin Chalk Walk 2018

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13707695_619862964842035_7752246531461103722_nI was thrilled to be invited this year as a feature artist for the Oberlin Chalk Walk! It was a blast to get all messy with chalk and to also have my kids around me while I worked. They worked on their own creations while I planned my piece.

I learned several things, since it was my first year doing the Chalk Walk. The biggest of which was to always bring a tarp in case of rain. I worked for hours on my piece and then came the unexpected rain. HEAVY rain.

Still, it was fun to get messy with art materials, and getting on my hands and knees was fun for a change (although physically brutal – I was so sore for days afterward). It was fun, and I hope I’ll be invited again next year. I know more what to expect and how to better prepare myself next time.

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Me, working on my piece.

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My piece, nearly finished, just before the downpour!

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My daughter, Rose, working on her chalk piece.

Cleveland: Circle Our City With Love

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Cleveland Mandala

I’m so excited to have an art piece in Willoughby’s “The Art Gallery” this month! It’s part of an art show for the Northern Ohio Illustrator’s Society (NOIS) called “All Things Cleveland.”

My inspiration for the piece was an event that occurred on the eve of the Republican National Convention here in Cleveland. After the attacks on police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, People around Cleveland were very worried that riots would break out big time for the week of the RNC.

I discovered that week that there was a special event called “Circle the City with Love” in which a huge group of people gathered on Cleveland’s Hope Memorial Bridge to hold hands and pray silently for peace. This was a non-political movement, all about spreading the message of peace and love to the city of Cleveland.

I was amazed to hear that people came from as far as Columbus to participate in this peace movement. Thousands gathered. There were no signs of protest… just an endless line of people on the Hope Bridge holding hands and showing their support of love to the city and its officers.

It it merely a coincidence that the week was without incident? The only harm done to anyone for that entire week was when someone accidentally scorched himself while attempting to burn an American flag. A couple officers were bruised up during the tussle while trying to protect the guy from lighting himself on fire!

I decided this “Circle The City With Love” event was going to be my subject of inspiration for my Cleveland piece. I’m looking forward to the show’s opening on September 9th, 6:30-9:00pm. I’ll be thrilled if the piece sells! I had so much fun creating it! I took out all the stops, adding sparkling gems, colorful yarn and ribbons, a dangling angel charm, and a handmade charm made of Angelite gemstone.

I call it my “Cleveland Mandala: Circle Our City With Love.”

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Cleveland Mandala: Circle Our City With Love

Sweet Tea Memories

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sweet memoriesI ended up taking a month sabbatical in the Carolinas in June. It wasn’t the plan, but I sure do feel refreshed. I spent most of my time with my mom in NC, learning how to get her homemade iced tea down just right so I could keep a jug in the fridge always whenever we wanted to treat ourselves (I lived on the stuff for the whole month).

I was running very late on this project to do an illustrated recipe as a promotional piece for the Northern Ohio Illustrators Society’s annual cookbook. I’ve just been SO busy with freelance, I’ve had to put my personal projects on hold.

So I had my husband ship my Wacom tablet to me in NC so I could get cracking finally on this promo piece. I had no idea what to do, and then realized I should just use my mom’s iced tea formula for my recipe.

When faced with what to use for my illustration, I had my computer set up with a view of my mom’s screened-in porch and thought it would be fun to memorialize all the different elements I saw on her porch – so many different potted plants, tables, and wicker chairs. And I had to get some hummingbirds in there for added character (my mom has a few hummingbird feeders in her backyard too).

 

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Final Piece!

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Rough Sketch

The Googuwams and the Vanishing Moon ~ My newest illustrated project published!

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THUMBNAIL_IMAGEA couple years ago, my friend Dawn Richerson visited Cleveland and I was grateful to get the chance to meet with her in person at long last. She spoke to me about her husband’s writing projects and I was intrigued. I loved the concepts and enjoyed the idea about collaborating on Tim’s first picture book! At the time I was looking for ways to further develop my portfolio with more personal projects and looking for ways to explore new Photoshop techniques.

I was thrilled today to receive my complimentary copy of Tim Richerson’s The Googuwams and the Vanishing Moon. This was a project I’d been working on for quite a while. Picture books are always a huge undertaking, and even though I tried to cut corners by using a simple character design and reusing background imagery and textures, there seems to ultimately be no way to really make the production of 28 full-color illustrations a quick and simple task (DUH! Live and learn!).

It sure is wonderful to see my work in final print, I must say. And since I plan to use CreateSpace.com for my next full-color picture book, I’m happy to see the quality of CreateSpace seems to work well for full color after all.

Here is a sneak peek at a few of my favorite illustrations from the book. It’s an educational yet entertaining story about the lunar eclipse!

FREE Coloring Page Download, inspired by photo of my daughter.

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I’ve felt inspired by this recent IMG_7183photo I took of my daughter when we took a family outing to Squire’s Castle in Willoughby Hills, Ohio. It’s not a far trek from where I live, really, which is amazing since I live in the suburbs around Cleveland.

You just never know what kind of treasure you will find around your own city.

I took a series of photos of my daughter while my husband and son went hiking and adventuring for a while, and this was one of my favorites (at right). I was feeling rather melancholy that day, and it sure showed up in this photo. But I see more in this photo, and decided to illustrate it in this coloring page. You could color it to fit your own mood, and you can also add to the border to give it your own artistic flair! Perhaps even journal around the blank area if you wish (what does this image communicate to you?).

DOWNLOAD COLORING PAGE

See my initial sketch for the page below:

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